BROOKLINE, Mass. — MJ Daffue stepped to the lectern contained in the interview space behind The Nation Membership‘s large yellow clubhouse and shielded his eyes from the lights shining again at him.
“Effectively that is new,” he mentioned with amusing as he ready to take questions following his opening-round 67 on the U.S. Open. That the 10-year professional could be noteworthy sufficient to garner a cease within the media parade at a significant was unlikely for a couple of purpose.
For starters, Thursday was Daffue’s first begin in one in all golf’s Large 4 occasions. He’s a profession mini-tour grinder who’s solely only recently began taking part in recurrently on the Korn Ferry Tour. Guys like that don’t usually converse to a media scrum at majors.
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However much more unlikely for Daffue’s media look is that he didn’t even plan on being right here a month in the past. In actual fact, only a week earlier than ultimate qualifying for the 122nd U.S. Open, the South African wasn’t even planning on displaying as much as the qualifier.
As a Korn Ferry Tour professional, he was centered on attempting to lock up his PGA Tour card. If he performed the qualifier and bought by means of, it could take a KFT occasion off his schedule, which might imply one much less probability to earn factors. There could also be extra status on the nationwide open, however big-tour efficiency has no bearing on securing a card by way of the KFT — it’s all about factors.
Take into account Taylor Montgomery as a cautionary story. He competed in final summer time’s U.S. Open after advancing by means of a qualifier, and finally made the minimize and completed T57. However he needed to skip a KFT occasion to take action. Come yr’s finish, he missed out on incomes a Tour card by 17 factors. If he’d teed it up within the Wichita Open as an alternative of the U.S. Open, he’d probably have a Tour card.
Golf is a brutal sport, however these are the calculations up-and-comers must make when the U.S. Open comes round annually. Make the flawed resolution, and it may — fairly actually — change the trajectory of your profession.
Daffue didn’t wish to be the 2022 model of Taylor Montgomery. So, he deliberate on skipping the qualifier altogether and reserving a flight to Wichita.
However the week earlier than U.S. Open ultimate qualifying, Daffue summited the mountaintop. On the energy of back-to-back third-place finishes on the KFT, the 10-year professional crossed the fail-safe factors threshold to earn a Tour card. Instantly, a run on the U.S. Open was again within the playing cards.
“I didn’t wish to skip every week,” Daffue mentioned. “However then I locked it up [in Kansas City], and I mentioned, ‘Oh, I’m going to go do it.’”
He made the best name. Teeing it up amongst one of many strongest qualifier fields within the nation, Daffue tied for medalist honors at Springfield Nation Membership in Ohio, capturing eight beneath over 36 holes to earn his spot within the area at The Nation Membership.
“Typically it’s important to go this strategy to find yourself in the best place,” he mentioned. “And that’s type of what occurred.”
Daffue arrived in Brookline this week having by no means teed it up on such a stage, however that doesn’t imply he was intimidated. Removed from it, in reality.
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As a profession grinder, the 33-year-old is a daily on the Monday-qualifying circuit — and he’s change into fairly comfy with taking part in for his livelihood. He’s gotten by means of 12 of his final 20 Monday qualifiers (an absurd success ratio) and he’s taken that mindset from Mondays at goat tracks to a Thursday at one of many most interesting golf equipment on the planet.
“[The] strain whenever you don’t have any standing and you’re taking part in a Monday qualifier — that’s much more strain,” he mentioned. “It actually taught me to make lots of birdies.”
Daffue did simply that in Spherical 1 at Brookline. He carded six birdies (tied for tops within the area) taking part in within the gusty afternoon wave, and his 67 leaves him only a shot off the lead heading into Friday. And all of it goes again to securing his Tour card only a month in the past.
“Now I’ve lastly this week most likely began feeling the liberty,” he mentioned. “I’m, like, I secured my card subsequent yr, and possibly I can go for just a few extra issues that I might by no means have.”
You may rely being in rivalry at a significant championship on the highest of that checklist.
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